The Governor of California is the head of government of the U.S. state of California. The California Governor is the chief executive of the state government and the commander-in-chief of the California National Guard and the California State Military Reserve.
Established in the Constitution of California, the governor's responsibilities also include making the annual State of the State address to the California State Legislature, submitting the budget, and ensuring that state laws are enforced. The position was created in 1849, the year before California became a state.
|Governor of California|
Seal of the Governor of California
Standard of the Governor
since January 7, 2019
|California Executive Branch|
|Residence||California Governor's Mansion|
|Term length||Four-year term, renewable once|
|Inaugural holder||Peter Hardeman Burnett|
|Formation||December 20, 1849|
Governors are elected by popular ballot and serve terms of four years, with a limit of two terms, if served after November 6, 1990. Governors take the following oath:
I (Governor) do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.
Governors take office on the first Monday after January 1 after their election.
There are two methods available to remove a governor before the expiration of the gubernatorial term of office.
Petitions signed by California state voters equal in number to 12% of the last vote for the office of governor (with signatures from each of 5 counties equal in number to 1% of the last vote for governor in the county) can launch a gubernatorial recall election. The voters can then vote on whether or not to recall the incumbent governor, and on the same ballot they can vote a potential replacement. If a majority of the voters in the election vote to recall the governor, then the person who gains a plurality of the votes in the replacement race will become governor.
The 2003 California recall began with a petition drive that successfully forced sitting Democratic Governor Gray Davis into a special recall election. It marked the first time in the history of California that a governor faced a recall election. He was subsequently voted out of office, becoming the second governor in the history of the United States to be recalled after Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921. He was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Lieutenant Governor of California is separately elected during the same election, not jointly as the running mate of the gubernatorial candidate. California has had a governor and a lieutenant governor of different parties 26 of the past 31 years. This occasionally becomes significant, since the California Constitution provides that all the powers of the governor fall to the lieutenant governor whenever the governor is not in the state of California, with the lieutenant governor often signing or vetoing legislation, or making political appointments, whenever the governor leaves the state. The lieutenant governor is also the president of the California State Senate. In practice, there is a gentlemen's agreement for the Lieutenant Governor not to perform more than perfunctory duties while the governor is away from the state. This agreement was violated when Mike Curb was in office, as he signed several executive orders at odds with the Brown administration when Brown was out of the state. Court rulings have upheld the lieutenant governor's right to perform the duties and assume all of the prerogatives of governor while the governor is out of the state.
The 1849 California gubernatorial election was held on November 13, 1849 to elect the first governor of California. Peter Hardeman Burnett won in a five-way race.1853 California gubernatorial election
The 1853 California gubernatorial election was held on September 7, 1853 to elect the governor of California. Incumbent governor John Bigler successfully ran for reelection, winning over Whig nominee William Waldo in a close race.1855 California gubernatorial election
The 1855 California gubernatorial election was held on September 5, 1855 to elect the governor of California. Incumbent governor John Bigler lost his bid for reelection.1867 California gubernatorial election
The 1867 California gubernatorial election was held on September 4, 1867 to elect the governor of California.1902 California gubernatorial election
The California gubernatorial election, 1902 was held on November 4, 1902 to elect the governor of California.Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger (; German: [ˈaɐ̯nɔlt ˈʃvaɐ̯tsn̩ˌʔɛɡɐ]; born July 30, 1947) is an Austrian-American actor, filmmaker, businessman, author, philanthropist, activist, politician, and former professional bodybuilder and powerlifter. He served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 to 2011.
Schwarzenegger began lifting weights at the age of 15. He won the Mr. Universe title at age 20 and went on to win the Mr. Olympia contest seven times, remaining a prominent presence in bodybuilding and writing many books and articles on the sport. The Arnold Sports Festival, considered the second most important professional bodybuilding event in recent years, is named after him. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest bodybuilders of all-time, as well as the sport's most charismatic ambassador.Schwarzenegger gained worldwide fame as a Hollywood action film icon. His breakthrough film was the sword-and-sorcery epic Conan the Barbarian in 1982, a box-office hit that resulted in a sequel. In 1984, he appeared in the title role of James Cameron's critically and commercially successful science-fiction thriller film The Terminator. He subsequently played a similar Terminator character in most of the franchise's later installments, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), and Terminator Genisys (2015). He has appeared in a number of other successful films, such as Commando (1985), The Running Man (1987), Predator (1987), Twins (1988), Total Recall (1990), Kindergarten Cop (1990), and True Lies (1994).
Schwarzenegger married Maria Shriver, a niece of the 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy and daughter of the 1972 Democratic vice presidential candidate and former Ambassador to France Sargent Shriver, in 1986. They separated in 2011 after he admitted to having fathered a child with another woman in 1997.As a Republican, Schwarzenegger was first elected on October 7, 2003, in a special recall election to replace then-Governor Gray Davis. He was sworn in on November 17, to serve the remainder of Davis' term. He was then re-elected in the 2006 California gubernatorial election, to serve a full term as governor. In 2011, he completed his second term as governor and returned to acting. Schwarzenegger was nicknamed "the Austrian Oak" in his bodybuilding days, "Arnie" or "Schwarzy" during his acting career, and "The Governator" (a portmanteau of "Governor" and "Terminator") during his political career.Eleni Kounalakis
Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis (born March 3, 1966) is an American diplomat, politician and businesswoman serving as the 50th and current Lieutenant Governor of California since 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, she is the first woman elected to the office.
Kounalakis previously served as the United States Ambassador to Hungary from 2010 to 2013. She was sworn into office on January 7, 2010, and presented her credentials to President László Sólyom on January 11, 2010. On April 24, 2017, Kounalakis announced her bid for the office of Lieutenant Governor of California in the 2018 election. She came in first place in the June 5, 2018 primary election; she was elected on November 6, 2018.First Ladies of California
The First Lady of California is the wife of the Governor of California if they have one. The role of the spouse of the Governor of California has never been codified or officially defined. The spouse figures prominently in the social life of the state, and some spouses have been assisted with a staff in the Executive office of the Governor. As of 2019, all the state's governors have been men, and not all of them were married while in office.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom is the current spouse of the Governor of California, with the informal but accepted title of First Partner, concurrent with the governor's term in office. Her predecessors held the informal but accepted title of First Lady.
Governor Newton Booth wed after he retired from politics, and Washington Bartlett was a lifelong bachelor. Jerry Brown was a bachelor during his first turn as governor, marrying decades later when he once again became governor.Prior to entering politics, Jane Stanford joined her husband Leland Stanford to help him run a mercantile business in San Francisco. The couple co-founded Stanford University. Bernice Layne Brown, wife of Governor Pat Brown, was also the mother of Governor Jerry Brown. Nancy Reagan was a career actress before her husband Ronald Reagan was first elected governor, and then President of the United States.
There are five living former First Ladies: Gloria Deukmejian, widow of George Deukmejian; Gayle Wilson, wife of Pete Wilson; Sharon Davis, wife of Gray Davis; Maria Shriver, ex-wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Anne Gust Brown, wife of Jerry Brown.Gavin Newsom
Gavin Christopher Newsom (born October 10, 1967) is an American politician and businessman. He is the 40th governor of California, serving since January 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the 49th lieutenant governor of California from 2011 to 2019 and as the 42nd mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011. He was sworn in as Governor of California on January 7, 2019.Newsom attended Redwood High School, and graduated from Santa Clara University. After graduation, he founded the PlumpJack wine store with family friend Gordon Getty as an investor. The PlumpJack Group grew to manage 23 businesses, including wineries, restaurants, and hotels. Newsom began his political career in 1996, when San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown appointed him to serve on the city's Parking and Traffic Commission. Brown appointed Newsom to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors the following year, and Newsom was later elected to the Board in 1998, 2000, and 2002.
In 2003, Newsom was elected the 42nd mayor of San Francisco, becoming the city's youngest mayor in a century. Newsom was re-elected in 2007 with 72 percent of the vote. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of California in 2010 as the running mate of Jerry Brown, and was re-elected in 2014. In February 2015, Newsom announced his candidacy for Governor of California in the 2018 election. On June 5, 2018, he finished in the top two of the non-partisan blanket primary. Newsom defeated Republican John H. Cox in the general election on November 6.
Newsom hosted The Gavin Newsom Show on Current TV and wrote the 2013 book Citizenville. Despite speculation, he has denied any interest in running for President of the United States.George Deukmejian
Courken George Deukmejian Jr. (;
June 6, 1928 – May 8, 2018) was an American politician who was the 35th Governor of California from 1983 to 1991 and Attorney General of California from 1979 to 1983. Deukmejian was the first and so far the only governor of Armenian descent of a U.S. state.Goodwin Knight
Goodwin Jess "Goodie" Knight (December 9, 1896 – May 22, 1970) was an American politician who was the 31st Governor of California from 1953 until 1959.James Rolph
James "Sunny Jim" Rolph Jr. (August 23, 1869 – June 2, 1934) was an American politician and a member of the Republican Party. He was elected to a single term as the 27th governor of California from January 6, 1931 until his death on June 2, 1934 at the height of the Great Depression. Previously, Rolph had been the 30th mayor of San Francisco from January 8, 1912 until his resignation to become governor. Rolph remains the longest-serving mayor in San Francisco history.Jerry Brown
Edmund Gerald Brown Jr. (born April 7, 1938) is an American politician who served as the 34th and 39th Governor of California from 1975 to 1983 and from 2011 to 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, Brown served as California Attorney General from 2007 to 2011. He was both the oldest and sixth-youngest Governor of California as a consequence of the 28-year gap between his second and third terms.
Brown was born in San Francisco as the son of Bernice Layne Brown and Pat Brown, who served as the 32nd Governor of California (1959–1967). After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley and Yale University, he began his political career as a member of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees (1969–1971). He was elected to serve as the 23rd Secretary of State of California from 1971 to 1975.
At 36, Brown was elected to his first term as Governor of California in 1974, making him the youngest California Governor in 111 years. In 1978, he won his second term. During and following his first governorship, Brown ran as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, 1980 and 1992. He declined to pursue a third term in 1982, instead making an unsuccessful run for the United States Senate that same year. After traveling abroad, he returned to California and served as Chairman of the California Democratic Party (1989–1991), attempting to run for the Senate once more in 1992.
After six years out of politics, Brown returned to public life, serving as Mayor of Oakland (1999–2007), then as Attorney General of California (2007–2011). He ran for his third and fourth terms as California Governor in 2010 and 2014, his eligibility to do so having stemmed from California's constitutional grandfather clause. On October 7, 2013, he became the longest-serving chief executive in the history of California, surpassing Earl Warren.John G. Downey
John Gately Downey (June 24, 1827 – March 1, 1894) was an Irish-American politician and the seventh governor of California from January 14, 1860 to January 10, 1862. Until the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003, Downey was the only governor of California to be born outside the United States. Downey was also the first man from Southern California to serve as governor.Lieutenant Governor of California
The Lieutenant Governor of California is a statewide constitutional officer and vice-executive of the U.S. state of California. The lieutenant governor is elected to serve a four-year term and can serve a maximum of two terms. In addition to basically ceremonial roles, serving as acting governor in the absence of the Governor of California and as President of the California State Senate, the lieutenant governor either sits on (or appoints representatives to) many of California's regulatory commissions and executive agencies.
California is one of eighteen states where the governor and lieutenant governor do not run as running mates on the same ticket: in California the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately, although both are up for election in the same year every four years. As a result, California has frequently had a governor and a lieutenant governor of different parties.
California has had 41 lieutenant governors and five acting lieutenant governors since achieving statehood in 1850. The current lieutenant governor is Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat who was sworn into office on January 7, 2019. She is the first female to occupy the office in California history.List of Governors of California
The Governor of California is the chief executive of the California state government, whose responsibilities include making annual State of the State addresses to the California State Legislature, submitting the budget, and ensuring that state laws are enforced. The governor is also the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces.
The current governor is Gavin Newsom, who has been in office since 2019.
Thirty-nine people have served as governor, over 40 distinct terms; many have been influential nationwide in areas far-flung from politics. Leland Stanford founded Stanford University in 1891. Earl Warren, later Chief Justice of the United States, won an election with the nominations of the three major parties – the only person ever to run essentially unopposed for governor of California. Ronald Reagan, who was president of the Screen Actors Guild and later President of the United States, and Arnold Schwarzenegger both came to prominence through acting. Gray Davis, the 37th governor of California, was the second governor in American history to be recalled by voters. The shortest tenure was that of Milton Latham, who served only five days before being elected by the legislature to fill a vacant United States Senate seat. The longest tenure is that of Edmund Gerald "Jerry" Brown, Jr., who previously served as governor from 1975 to 1983 and again from 2011 to 2019. He is the son of former governor Edmund Gerald "Pat" Brown, Sr. who served from 1959 to 1967.List of Governors of California before 1850
For the Governors of California since 1850, see List of Governors of California.
Below is a list of the Governors of early California (1769–1850), before its admission as the 31st U.S. state. First explored by Gaspar de Portolá, with colonies established at San Diego and Monterey, California was a remote, sparsely-settled Spanish province of New Spain. In 1822, following the Mexican independence, California became part of Mexico.
In 1836, a coup led by Californios Juan Bautista Alvarado and Jose Castro eventually resulted in Alvarado becoming governor. That conflict ended in 1838, when the central government of Mexico recognized Alvarado as California Governor. The territorial diputación (legislature) approved the appointment.
Another disputed governorship occurred in 1844, settled when another Californio, Pio Pico, became the last Governor of Mexican California. In 1846, the "Bear Flag Revolt" in Sonoma declared California an independent republic—the "Bear Flag Republic". No government was formed, however, and the revolt did not have time to spread very far because, than a month later, California came under U.S. military protection at the outset of the Mexican–American War. California was ceded to the U.S. in 1848, and was admitted as the 31st U.S. state on September 9, 1850. Peter Burnett, the last governor of the post-war military territory, became its first state governor after admission.Washington Bartlett
Washington Montgomery Bartlett (February 29, 1824 – September 12, 1887) was the 20th mayor of San Francisco, California from 1883 to 1887, the 16th governor of California, and – to date – the only Jewish governor of California.William Irwin (California politician)
William Irwin (1827 – March 15, 1886) was a California politician from the Democratic Party who served as the 13th governor of California between 1875 and 1880. He previously served as acting lieutenant governor for nine months in 1875.
Born in Butler County, Ohio, Irwin graduated in 1848 from Marietta College in Marietta, where he later became an instructor. After moving to California, Irwin worked in various private industries and was eventually elected to the California State Assembly as one of two members representing Siskiyou County. He became the editor of a newspaper and then was elected to the California State Senate. He served as president pro tempore of the Senate and as such, became acting lieutenant governor in 1875 when Lieutenant Governor Romualdo Pacheco became governor. Irwin was elected governor in his own right that same year. He died in 1886 in San Francisco, California and was interred in the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery in Sacramento, California.
Governors of California
|Under U.S. military|
An asterisk signifies a special election
California statewide elected officials
Chief executives of the United States